Justin Fields' Record-Setting Day



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Rarely does a theory get so beautifully put into practice. Since Justin Fields made his debut last September, the main complaint has remained consistent: The Bears have refused to use his legs and unleash his true dual-threat potential, opening up more avenues for production and easing the pressure on his passing game.

Enter Week 6, where he rushed 12 times for a career-high 88 yards. Then Week 7, where he rushed for 82. Then Week 8, where he got the Cowboys' league-best defense for 8/60/1 on the ground. Which brings us to Week 9. Tired of setting new personal bests, Fields went supernova and did something neither Michael Vick nor Lamar Jackson ever accomplished. He rushed for 178 yards, a single-game regular season record for a quarterback and just three shy of Colin Kaepernick's 2013 destruction of the Packers in the Divisional Round.

In the open field, Fields took a little bit of everything from his dual-threat forebears. Like Jackson, he shifted gears with an almost terrifying effortlessness. Like Vick, he was suddenly the fastest man on the field once he got into space. Like Cam Newton, it sort of seemed like he might hurt you if you tried to tackle him.

Like all of them, he saw his passing effectiveness increase as the defense became wary of his legs, reaching three passing scores in a start for the first time in his career. He even tried to make a big play with new trade acquisition Chase Claypool, but the refs swallowed their whistle on perhaps the most egregious non-DPI call of the entire season.

The end result was the fifth most fantasy points by any quarterback all year. Fields has officially arrived as not just a QB1, but a high-end option in a campaign that has been lacking for breakout signal callers. His reward for the next two weeks is matchups with Lions and Falcons defenses that are amongst the league's very worst. You are no longer just starting Fields, you are riding with him.

Five Week 9 Storylines

Jim Irsay finds his latest scapegoat in Frank Reich. First Irsay ordered the benching of Matt Ryan. Then he fired OC Marcus Brady. He has finally dispatched what seems to have been the true origin of his angst, Reich. It goes without saying that it's a curious decision, since Reich has done an admirable job of riding the quarterback merry-go-round supplied to him by GM Chris Ballard. That is, of course, unless Irsay views Reich as more responsible for the team's quarterback direction, something that could be possible. We don't know who Reich has pounded the table for behind closed doors. We just know the plans have had increasingly diminishing returns, and that a change in direction appears warranted. It just seemed more true in the front office than on the sideline. This doesn't mean anything good for the Colts' stretch-run play, and Reich should have a new job two months from now. Irsay's interim option, Jeff Saturday, is so farcical it appeared to be parody when it first rolled across Twitter.

Sam Ehlinger takes nine sacks in New England, torpedoes Colts' entire offense. Which brings us to Irsay's final straw. As bad as Ryan has been in Indy, he never approached what Ehlinger displayed in Boston. Ehlinger's supposed mobility hasn't made a lick of difference behind the Colts' crumbling offensive line, and he definitely isn't doing a better job getting the ball to his pass catchers than Ryan was. The inescapable conclusion is that there is nothing that can save this offense for 2022, not even the healthy return of Jonathan Taylor. And seeing as his ankle issue has now been lingering for over a month, Taylor's truly healthy return probably won't happen until 2023. There is no light at the end of this fantasy tunnel, up to and including Michael Pittman probably needing to be treated as a WR3 unless Ryan and his quick-passing approach is reinstalled under center.

Romeo Doubs ends up on crutches, Aaron Jones in walking boot following latest Packers fiasco. Doubs had gone from Aaron Rodgers' doghouse back into his good graces after popping up for 4/62/1 in Week 8 against the Bills. Then he made it one play in Detroit before suffering a high-ankle sprain on an 18-yard reception. He appears headed for a stint on injured reserve. Jones' ankle issue appears less serious, but it still prevented him from returning to a game the Packers had to have. He did say afterward his X-rays were “fine.” After Jones literally ran back to the sideline following a locker room examination, it would appear he will be good to go for Week 10 against the Cowboys. With Doubs out, more will fall on Christian Watson's shoulders if he returns from his latest concussion evaluation.

Jeff Wilson forms committee with Raheem Mostert in Dolphins debut. With Mostert's effectiveness waning of late, coach Mike McDaniel did the only thing he knows how: Go and get another 49ers running back. Enter Wilson who, unlike Christian McCaffrey in San Francisco, didn't need a week to get acclimated to the offense. Wilson was at home enough in the system to notch his most touches since Week 5 and out-handle Mostert 12-9. Fantasy managers know the frustrating drill by now. This doesn't mean Wilson will be leading the committee every week. Either back could pop up for decisive advantages. But the committee will be here to stay. It's not only what McDaniel is must comfortable with, it seems necessary after Mostert had begun to slow down on his recent workloads. Playing in an elite offense helps but neither back will ascend beyond FLEX status for Week 10 against the Browns' shaky run defense.

T.J. Hockenson fits right into Vikings' offense. Fearing a player making a mid-week transition at one of football's most complex positions, I ranked Hockenson as a bottom-barrel TE1 for Week 9. Good process? I'm not sure. Good results? Those were self evident. Hockenson's nine receptions were his most of the season and second most of his career. His 21.9 target share was up more than four percent on his Lions number. Playing for a coaching staff actually motivated to use him, Hockenson looked like the No. 2 passing-game weapon in an offense dealing with a fading Adam Thielen and pedestrian K.J. Osborn. Hockenson has popped up before only to return to 4-5 reception land, but this was an extremely encouraging performance, one that could have him in the mix for top-five status when he has good matchups down the stretch. The Bills do not fit that bill for Week 10.

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Five More Week 9 Storylines

Joe Mixon regresses to the mean, buries opposing fantasy managers under avalanche of points. “Settling in as something of a running back Diontae Johnson, Joe Mixon has combined elite usage with underwhelming returns. Frustrating as it has been, Mixon is still well positioned for positive regression in the touchdown department, especially with Ja'Marr Chase (hip) sidelined.” That was my not-exactly hot take in my Week 9 rankings column. All it took was being compared to Johnson once for Mixon to finally do what Johnson refuses and score some damn fantasy points. 55.1 of them in PPR leagues to be exact. The points explosion has the previously disappointing runner the No. 2 overall running back by raw PPR points and seventh by average. Amazing, though it could be right back to frustrating following the Bengals' Week 10 bye. They will be facing a Steelers defense that is far more burnable through the air than on the ground. “Sell high” comes to mind for a back managing just 3.9 yards per carry and a putrid 0.13 rush yards over expected per attempt.

Josh Allen remains turnover-happy in shock loss to Jets. I swear I am not a victory lapper, but to again quote my Week 9 rankings column: “The lone bugaboo for Josh Allen so far? Turnovers. Although he has 'only' eight of them, Pro Football Focus has charted his 13 'turnover worthy plays' as tied for second amongst QBs. It matches an 'eye test' that has shown Allen to be an elite player taking a few too many unnecessary chances.” I went on to talk about how, while not a true concern, it does short-circuit drives and limit overall scoring opportunities. Enter Sunday, where Allen tossed two more picks and was lucky that number wasn't higher. Unlike some of his past two-INT performances, Allen was straight up not good in this one, having to rely on his legs full time and generating only one 20-plus yard completion in the passing game, one that came seconds into the game. Allen didn't need to wake up before because the Bills kept winning. Hopefully this performance is the one that finally gets him to rein in his pointlessly risky behavior.

Limited D'Andre Swift held to five touches as Lions spring upset. Coach Dan Campbell said Swift might be snap counted. He didn't say he might get the ball only one more time than Justin Jackson. That's what happened against the Packers, where Swift disappeared for quarters at a time only to reappear for some of the game's most important snaps. We suppose that's the good news, but it could not be clearer that the Lions — understandably — do not trust Swift to stay healthy. Swift did at least appear crisper and springier than he did in Week 8. Jamaal Williams was also going nowhere against the Packers' soft run defense. Perhaps nature will soon take its course and a healthier Swift will force bigger workloads, but fantasy managers have to consider him a volatile FLEX until further notice.

Josh Palmer has 100-yard day in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams' absence. Is Palmer good? It's difficult to say. Is he finally stepping up and taking advantage of all the targets he has defaulted into? Yes, and they should keep coming with Williams sidelined at least two more games and Allen's season appearing fully lost. With the competition less fierce than it has been in years in the WR25-26 range, Palmer is not only a locked-in WR3, he could begin pushing for WR2 value. He was, after all, the WR10 in PPR leagues for Week 9. The Chargers don't need an excuse to throw short, but the 49ers will be an appropriate place to Week 10 point chase as the Bolts try to counteract San Francisco's pass rush with quick passing.

Rachaad White keeps encroaching on Leonard Fournette's workload. Fournette won the touch battle just 14-11, and the snap war 52-40. He did double White up in routes, but all this happened in a game that started close and stayed there until the final whistle. This team can't move the ball, and it has diagnosed Fournette as part of the problem. It would be silly to consign Fournette to the RB3 dust bin — there are still going to be game plans that get him 20 touches by sheer force of target will — but if White keeps being given opportunities to pass him, he might just do so. The FLEX gap is closing.

Questions

1. Have the Cardinals thought about removing “audible groan” from their playbook?

2. Is Matt Patricia a better offensive coordinator than Josh McDaniels?

3. How exactly did the Packers forget how good Aaron Jones was at the goal line?

Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

QB: Daniel Jones (vs. HOU), Jimmy Garoppolo (vs. LAC), Andy Dalton (@PIT), Jacoby Brissett (@MIA), Jared Goff (@CHI), Ryan Tannehill (vs. DEN)
RB: Rachaad White, Jaylen Warren, Kyren Williams, Justice Hill
WR: Wan'Dale Robinson, Michael Gallup, Mecole Hardman, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Zay Jones, Treylon Burks, Jarvis Landry, Darius Slayton, Terrace Marshall
TE: Greg Dulcich, Cole Kmet, Cade Otton, Hunter Henry
DEF: Titans (vs. DEN), Broncos (@TEN), Saints (@PIT), Giants (vs. HOU), Cardinals (@LAR), Falcons (@CAR), Bears (vs. DET), Colts (@LV)

Stats of the Week

Tyreek Hill is on pace for 2,085 yards. Even his 16-game pace of 1,963 would come up just one yard short of Calvin Johnson's single-season record.

The Associated Press' Josh Dubow lays out the Raiders' futility under Josh McDaniels: “Number of games the Raiders lost after leading by 17+ in 628 regular season and playoff games before Josh McDaniels arrived: Three. .Number of games the Raiders lost after leading by 17+ in eight games with Josh McDaniels as head coach: Three.”

Noah Fant's 51-yard catch against the Cardinals was more yards than he had contributed in a game up until that point. It also came against a “tackling optional” Arizona defensive play. Don't go rushing to grab Fant off the wire.

P.J. Walker only missed his passing prop by 179 yards.

Awards Section

Week 9 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Justin Fields, RB Joe Mixon, RB Ken Walker, WR Davante Adams, WR Tyreek Hill, WR Cooper Kupp, TE Dallas Goedert

Tweet of the Week, from Tej Seth: “All the talk about andy reid coming off a bye no one considered how well Vrabel would get his defense to play with an extra hour because of daylight savings to prepare.”

Tweet of the Week II, from Theo Ash: The Titans almost got the win with Kendall Hinton at QB, respect this defense.

Down Bad Tweet of the Week, from Matt Schneidman: The Ford Field big screen is playing highlights from around the NFL and showing Davante Adams going off today while the Packers prepare to start another drive in a game they have zero points against perhaps one of the worst defenses in NFL history.

Though I Walk Through The Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Will Fear No Evil Award: The sequence that got the Chiefs their two-point conversion against the Titans.

The Maybe Should Not Have Done That Award: Ta'Quon Graham recovering a fumble then literally laying it on the ground for the Chargers to recover.